It wasn't here when I last visited two years ago, this was merely levelled ground, but infrastructural progress is essential when there's a massive housing estate to be built.
A quick reminder. The area in question is the site of the defunct Barking Power Station, a huge expanse approximately two-thirds the size of the City of London, first snapped up by a housing developer twenty-seven years ago. Eleven thousand homes are planned but only twelve hundred can be built before transport links are improved and that's been a painfully slow process. An Overground extension from Barking got the nod in 2016, replacing a DLR pipedream scrapped in 2008, and only from next year can development surge ahead. In the meantime this is a fascinatingly outcast corner of the capital, still mostly openspace, albeit teetering on the edge of becoming Highrise-on-Thames.
The newstation is a two-platformed affair raised off the ground and encased in a glass box with timber cladding. The main entrance will be at the riverward end - that's the fully weatherproofed half - with ticket hall and retail opportunities tucked underneath. At present there's a good view across the building site past pipes and portakabins, but one day all the intermediate space will be densely developed because the premium spot for a district centre is right beside the station.
One of the things you can see outside at present is a pallet of roundels, securely wrapped and ready for installation. They're Overground orange with a blue bar across the centre, obviously, and it looks like they've been imprinted on glass panels rather than the usual white enamel. Considerably more abundant are the trackbed sections destined to connect the new station to civilisation. Hundreds of these white blocks are stacked within the grounds of the former Dagenham Sunday Market, a shopping experience permanently extinguished by the pandemic so currently a useful holding space.
At present only a short strip of housing has been built to the east of the station up a road called Fielders Crescent. You can see it in the distance from the station, just beyond the free school campus that arrived here first and just to the left of the cluster of cranes building phase 2. A bank of apartments curves round the crest of an artificial contour, intermittently punctured by short terraces of townhouses. Their balconies are all occupied and summer-ready, although residents will only have enjoyed one year looking out towards Thamesmead before their estuary view was blocked by the next line of rising flats.
The sales office is open at Fielders Quarter, although they're keen potential punters don't just drop in. The sign outside says Please Stay Inside Your Car Until Your Appointment Tim, partly due to lettering curtailment but also because they're not expecting anyone to come by bus. Apartments start at £249,495 which is damned good for zone 4, although parking spaces cost extra and don't expect to end up with a Thames view either.
The latest addition to the estate is a play area on Northgate Road, open less than a week, opposite a more extensive park whose gates should open later this year. Close by is The Wilds Ecology Centre, a brushed steel box that'll double up as a co-working space, because that's what you get instead of a community centre these days. This is also where they placed the bus stand for route EL1, currently the best means of escape... and if you look up you'll see why all these things are here. Three chains of pylons preclude the development of saleable flats underneath, so this peripheral area gets to have all the amenities instead.
This also is one of the best places to see the low-slung viaduct as it swoops over Choats Road and curves round to join the Tilbury line. This too has appeared in the last two years and will ultimately whisk local residents to Barking, from which they can change for wherever they really want to go. The slogan on the hoarding underneath claims that Barking Riverside will be "seamlessly connected to London, the countryside and beyond", and if you believe that kind of thing you totally deserve to come and live here to discover the inconvenient truth for yourself.
I'm pleased to say that Footpath 47 survives, the glorious half mile of entirely undeveloped waterfront where you can spot birds, walk through wild flowers, watch boats on the river and enjoy an extensive estuarine panorama. It'll be a few years before the advancing vanguard of flats gets this far and reimagines this wild space as a sanitised wetland strip with timber boardwalks and a 'coastal garden', but for now it's the only stretch of river that Barking Riverside residents can actually access. Come by train next year and you might still see the place at its best. [10 photos]